Forgotten Communication Scholars, Vol. 13 - 2006, No. 3
More than fifty years after Erich Fromm’s The Sane Society was first published, it remains an important work, surprisingly contemporary in scope, with particular relevance to scholars working in social theory and media studies. Fromm’s primary emphasis is on evaluating the sanity of contemporary western societies, which he suggests often deny its citizens’ basic human needs of productive activity, self-actualisation, freedom, and love. He suggests that the mental health of a society cannot be assessed in an abstract manner but must focus on specific economic, social, and political factors at play in any given society and should consider whether these factors contribute to insanity or are conducive to mental stability. Ultimately The Sane Society provides a radical critique of democratic capitalism that goes below surface symptoms to get to the root causes of alienation and to suggest ways to transform contemporary societies to further the productive activities of its citizens. Fromm envisions the refashioning of democratic capitalist societies based on the tenants of communitarian socialism, which stresses the organisation of work and social relations between its citizens rather than on issues of ownership.
Herbert Marcuse’s 1964 classic, One-Dimensional Man, was required reading for that generation of scholars who came of age intellectually in the era epitomised by 1968. The most widely read of Marcuse’s sixteen major books, One-Dimensional Man led the New York Times to identify Marcuse as “the foremost literary symbol of the New Left.” Over the decades, however, with the dumbing down of American higher education and the commodification of learning, Marcuse fell out of favour. This article argues that One-Dimensional Man is highly relevant to the current generation of students and provides them with theoretical concepts for understanding contemporary problems. The trends Marcuse described in the 1960s have accelerated, so that his basic arguments are more relevant than ever for courses in news, advertising, and contemporary culture. Marcuse relies heavily on examples to advance his arguments, and this article demonstrates for his illustrations can easily be brought up to date. Following the author’s background notes on Marcuse and basic Marxist concepts, the article identifies five suggestive themes that can be drawn from the text to consider contemporary problems: true versus false needs, lack of class consciousness, alliance between government and business, militarism, and authoritarian language.
During the 1960s in the United States, Hugh Duncan produced several accounts of a forgotten theory of communication, accounts in turn forgotten in the theory’s country of origin. There, American communication studies well before the twentieth century drew to a close knew of its label, “symbolic interactionism,” but its perspective and sensibility were largely forgotten, at least twice during the century. Duncan’s thesis of communication and social order was not generally recognised for its sustained effort to bring the study of authority, hierarchy, and power into the centre of communicative interaction. A way to develop a communication theory of society, Duncan’s work became a critique of communication research in the wake of the forgotten tradition he attempted to resurrect. The field had conceptually forsaken the idea of communication to disconnected concepts, for which Duncan equally faulted seminal European scholars who, nevertheless, offered the best explanations for the ordering of society until the arrival of symbolic interactionism and its cousin, philosophical pragmatism. This essay highlights Duncan’s communication theory as a theory of society, and proposes a critical appropriation of this alternative in the history of ideas, one that warns of assumptions risked whenever communication is theorised without and with attention to power.
Long neglected internationally, the media scholarship of Canadian economic historian and political economist Harold Adams Innis (1894-1952) has in recent years been taken up, largely without attribution or acknowledgment, by writers focusing on media as a key factor in social/political/ cultural evolution, by dependency theorists (media or cultural imperialism writers), and (ironically) by postmodernists/ poststructuralists. This article first provides an overview of Innis’s two main fields, his staples thesis of Canadian economic development, and media thesis as it concerns world history. This section also relates the media thesis to contemporary media and dependency theories and postmodernist discourses. The second focus of the article is on Innis’s critical analysis of press systems. The discussion not only integrates his staples and media theses, buy also extrapolates Innis’s analysis to the present to show the deep concerns he would express regarding the present-mindedness of contemporary media and culture. Throughout there is an emphasis on Innis’s materialist understanding of culture and social relations.
This article takes the opportunity to look in more detail at one of Jeremy Tunstall’s seminal works – Journalists at Work published in 1971. It was the first major social science study of specialist journalists in the UK. Tunstall began the research in 1965 at a time when no single social science study of British journalism existed. Tunstall’s study of British journalism set out to investigate specialist news gatherers on national newspapers constituting approximately fifteen per cent of the personnel in those organisations and representing about two percent of all British journalists. Three aspects of Tunstall’s study are discussed: news organisations and their goals, the source-media relationship, and the occupation of journalism in addition to some comments about the context and the methodology of the research.
Despite his intellectual impact in the field of communication studies during the 1970s, Ludovico Silva is hardly remembered today even in his native country, Venezuela. Showing a singular intellectual honesty, Ludovico Silva worked on a general theory of ideology, challenging the official Marxism and leftist political forces of the age. Based on Marx´s difference between use value and exchange value, Silva argued that the Marxist category of surplus needed an equivalent in the symbolic realm; hence he developed the concept of ideological surplus in order to reject mechanical interpretations of ideology. Thus, Silva, among other scholars, contributed to Latin American communication studies by incorporating power and domination as structural forces in the making of social relations. The ideological power of media became the ultimate concern in media studies, questioning the explanatory value of the functionalist and quantitative studies focused on media effects, which were dominant at that time. Silva´s work is recovered here in a historical perspective, stressing his intellectual commitment to the truth, and his contribution to move Latin American communication studies from a conventional academic stance to a critical one.
The essay reviews following books: <ul> <li>Jeffrey C. Alexander, Ron Eyerman, Bernhard Giesen, Neil J. Smelser, and Piotr Sztompka: Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004;</li> <li>Kendall R. Phillips (ur.): Framing Public Memory. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2004.</li> </ul>